Sheez Like the Wind Equine Experiences celebrated the power of women of all ages on the 24th of November 2018, in Sydney’s north shore, in the Equine-Assisted Learning workshop, “The Perfect 10: Cowgirls and Horses”.
Has the Sheez Like the Wind cowgirl crew gone wild, you ask? No, just crazy about creating awareness for prominent mental health issues affecting girls and women. A group of 12 bold and beautiful ladies, donning their cowgirl hats and boots, gathered on a private acreage property in Belrose, and put some colourful braids in their hair to spread the word that women experiencing trauma, depression, anxiety or grief, are not alone. The message resounded loud and clear: that there is no shame in asking for help.
With men’s mental health awareness being represented all over the world by interesting facial hair creations in the month of ‘Mo-vember’, the Sheez Like the Wind Equine Experiences Cowgirl Crew decided to craft their own concept of wacky hair designs by encouraging their clients to wear colourful braids, to highlight prominent issues such as suicidality, eating disorders, low self-worth and body image issues, past trauma and grief, among many other significant factors impacting the lives of girls and women.
But how to horses relate to all this? Sheez Like the Wind Equine Experiences run innovative Equine Assisted Learning programs either one-on-one or for families and groups, to assist humans in addressing any issues that are affecting their lives. Due to horses’ hyper-sensitive prey instincts, they are fine-tuned to identifying every nuance of change in their environment. Therefore, horses give instant and precise feedback to human energy, which helps people to clarify their own intentions, reactions, emotions, behaviour and communication style, which creates an instantaneous mirroring effect that brings a powerful self-awareness to humans. In a dynamic partnership with horses, the experienced Sheez Like the Wind facilitators assist people of all ages to connect with these majestic beings in an open and playful way, creating intuitive shifts and resulting in positive personal changes occurring in that very moment.
I have worked specifically with very vulnerable teenagers and their families for several decades, and have observed how horses possess an innate ability to connect with anyone, through an unconditional love and compassion that speaks to the heart. Before my very eyes, through a powerful connection with these incredible animals, I witness people truly transforming the way they view themselves, thus changing negative thinking patterns and their current behaviours, breaking through past barriers and re-aligning with a positive way of being. Because horses can simply only live in the present moment and without judgement, horses have the power to heal humans in a way that has been missing from other therapies, which involves a fundamental shift in mental health, and a profound feeling of being ‘re-gifted’ back to one’s true self.
My personal journey towards connecting with horses has not been an easy one. The Sheez Like the Wind concept developed from a lifetime of seeking ways to try to heal my own trauma, due to severe family violence that I experienced in my home environment from a very young age. For several decades I suffered from symptoms of PTSD, such as nightmares, flashbacks, depression and suicidality. As a teenager, I developed disordered eating and extremely low self-worth, but masked it well through a well-constructed façade. In those days, there were very few services to assist families going through a hard time, and you never spoke of your troubles, you just kept it to yourself. I was overcome by feelings of shame and guilt in sharing my story with others, for fear of judgement and rejection, so I became very skilled at hiding behind my smiles and a stoic front. I put my focus into helping other people with their issues, hoping that maybe my own would just fade away in time. Unfortunately, they didn’t. I tried a number of therapies, some of which were marginally effective, and gave me insight as to how I could move forward from my trauma in a healthier way. But nothing was ever completely effective.
By the time I reached my late twenties, I actually mimicked what horses do in the wild, and, that is, I fled as far away from danger as possible when given the opportunity to run. Soon after graduating from Harvard University in 1995, I moved from America to Australia, which I believed was an escape to the furthest possible country in the world, away from my memories, my perpetrators and my triggers. Australia allowed me a safe space to properly begin a healing journey, which led me to purchasing my first horse. At the time, I did not understand why, but I simply loved being around horses. They offered me a sense of peace within myself that I had never experienced. I became addicted to the deep sense of euphoria and calm they offered, the purity, the kindness, and the unconditional love.
I began working more closely with young people in a professional capacity, teaching at a variety of colleges and universities, but always gravitating towards a teenage cohort, in particular, those who were experiencing challenges. I always felt I wanted to use my own pain in a constructive way, to help other kids, the way that I wish I could have been supported when I was young. I felt so much compassion and connection to kids with trauma, especially victims of domestic violence or substance abusing parents. I began to invite anyone I knew to come and visit my horses, offering free lessons and rides to neighbours, friends and their families. I began to witness incredible changes, not only in myself after being around horses, but also in anyone who came to spend time around them. Over the next few decades, I worked intensively with vulnerable children, teenagers and their families, in providing support services in unconventional ways, when all other types of assistance had failed.
I founded Sheez Like the Wind Equine Experiences in order to create a structure around the assistance I have been providing in the community, through an alternative healing modality that serves as an essential adjunct therapy where other therapeutic modalities fall short. People who have trouble talking about their problems in a traditional clinical setting, often instantly connect with animal therapies, as they do not feel judged or pressured into being anyone but themselves. Horses operate in a realm of harmony, through kindness and deeply compassionate emotions, and they are eager to connect and bond with humans. Being in their presence teaches humans trust, respect, authenticity and self-love in a profoundly life-changing way.
Sheez Like the Wind Equine Experiences offers a variety of tailored, innovative equine programs in Sydney’s northern beaches, or our dynamic and knowledgeable crew can travel to any part of Australia or overseas to deliver workshops. Through our special community engagement enterprise, The Equine Experience Project, we offer programs free of charge or by donation, to vulnerable groups in the community, in order to make this healing modality accessible to more people who cannot afford to pay the high commercial rates typically charged for horse-related activities.
The dynamic, all-female program, “The Perfect 10: Cowgirls and Horses,” addressing women’s mental health, will be on again around the country in 2019, in addition to our all-male program, “The Cowboy Code: Ego and Ethics,” exploring all sorts of “man stuff” through horsemanship activities. Another program that is close to my heart has also just launched in 2019, called “Angels in the Wind” for LGBTQIA+ young people and their families, honouring a very special young man, Cooper Jett Cridland, a previous client who passed away a few years ago, who was a big advocate in the gay community.
Our unique corporate sponsorship opportunities are also making a big bang this year, with the onset of our unique mentoring program, “Lead With Kindness”, through which a vulnerable young person is matched with a corporate mentor, and both pair up to participate in team-building and leadership activities, with a focus on improving education and employment outcomes for the young people in our community. This program will be offered coast to coast around Australia in 2019.
Our specialised team also run tailored sessions for individuals, school groups, families, professionals, or for anyone who is interested in a powerful and effective healing modality, or simply to re-connect with their inner selves. For more information, you can check out Sheez Like the Wind Equine Experiences on Facebook and Instagram, or check our upcoming events and blog posts on our website www.sheezlikethewind.com. Looking forward to connecting with you and introducing you to our herd!
Welcome to the real you… the you who is free… like the wind!
Founder and Principal Facilitator
Sheez Like the Wind Equine Experiences